Tuesday 21 February 2012

An exciting new test: The DfE speaks:

"I have been receiving some complaints concerning the excellent Phonics test which, thanks to me, all Year 1 children will be taking June.

The test works like this: first of all the children read some real words. They're not in sentences because that would be cheating. They're just words on a page. Phonics words. What I mean by that is words that are regular. By regular I don't mean small - like coffee cups. I mean that they are spelled like they are said. Unlike, er...'said' which looks as if it should be said 'sayed'. Which actually is the way some people say 'said'. Look, this is really quite easy and obvious.

Er...where was I? Yes, the test. So, there'll be words. Not sentences. Sentences complicate things because children start guessing words by where they are in the sentences. And by what the sentence means. And 'meaning' as we call it, really has very little to do with reading. Or words. Meaning gets in the way of reading. We need the children to read. Not mean. There's far too many children going about trying to make words mean things. As you'll see, we need words that don't mean anything. I'm coming to that in a moment.

Now where was I? Yes, the test. So, one part of the text will be phonics words. Not Red Words. Some of you won't know what Red Words are. Red Words, by the way, are not Read Words. That would be different. And not phonic. Red  Words (not Read Words) are Tricky Words. These are in the Phonics books which every school must buy. (See me later for a list of recommended publishers. Only the ones we recommend are good. We know the people who write them and we recommend them so that the people we know get millions of pounds. This government is very pro-business.)

Now where was I? Yes,the test. Some words are Tricky. We call them 'Tricky'. Words like 'was' . 'Was' is tricky because it's said 'wozz' but written 'was'. So children just have to learn it. Look at it. Learn it. There's not enough of that sort of thing going on in schools. Far too many children don't look, and don't learn. They play and they talk. That's where the trouble starts. Later they become drug addicts and criminals.

Now where was I? Yes, the test. Tricky words are very tricky. And the best way to learn them is not phonically. I know phonics solves everything. But not tricky words. I'll leave tricky words for the time being because they are in fact very tricky. Or Red.

Now the test also has some other kinds of words. These aren't words. They're just words that look like words. Words like 'blurg'. or 'Skonk'. If you're a reader, you'll read those. If you're not a reader you won't. Now some people have said that some little children taking the test will think that if there's a word they can read but doesn't make sense, they'll try to make it make sense.  Now that really doesn't make sense. Well at least not to me it doesn't.

So, a child who can read, might see 'blurg' and because it doesn't make sense, they'll try to turn it into a word that does....'blurt' or 'blurb' or something. Then they'll be wrong and score badly. You know what we say to this? Tough. (which incidentally is a 'tricky word' or a Red Word. It just depends which of the phonics schemes you buy thanks to us and our recommendations. Though it won't be us thanking you, it'll be the people who make the books. Jolly good for business. Jolly good for Britain. Well, not Britain actually, because this only applies to England. Which isn't Britain. Which is a shame I always think. It would be better if Wales and Scotland were England.).

But the good news is that we've been listening to what teachers have been telling us about this. So do you know what we're doing? We've hired an artist who imagines what a 'blurg' might look like and he draws a 'blurg'. There it is on the page next to the word 'blurg'. A bit like a Flannimal. Now isn't that fun?Now the child looks at 'blurg' and says to him or herself...'Ho ho ho, that must be a blurg'. Problem solved.

This is the sort of thing we do at the Department for Education. We hire people to do pictures of blurgs.

So, look, press on. The phonics test is very good. Any school that fails the phonics test will have to become an Academy. Which is a very tricky word indeed. "